Your actions define you.
Most of them are desirable and essential, a few of them are mistakes.
In some of them, however, you step into the trap.
What I call a trap is a situation where you do something after you’re completely sure about the consequences of your action, but in reality they are not what you’ve expected.
Before you step into a trap, you are fully aware of what you’re going to do. You gave it a thought, and decided that it’s the right thing to do. You did an assessment of the consequences, and you felt good about them.
Unfortunately you were wrong.
“So what’s the difference between a mistake and a trap?” you must be asking. The difference is in the Thought Process that led you to the action.
A mistake, compared to trap, happens when you don’t think.
A mistake might happen, for instance, when you say something impulsively because you’re angry. (Is there someone in the crowd that it didn’t happen to him? 🙂 )
Or when you simply did something because it’s a habit, and as we all know – habits are stronger than reason.
Traps are tricky. We fall into them everywhere in our lives – at work, at home, with our colleagues, friends, partners and children.
Some of them are small.
Here’s an example: You leave your kid at your friend’s house, to play with his kids. After a few hours, you want to catch up and see if everything is ok. As a caring father, you call your friend. But he’s not answering, so you try a few more times. Finally, after 3 hours, he gets back to you. And what’s the first thing he tells you?
“Why did you have to call so many times? DON’T YOU TRUST ME THAT EVERYTHING IS OK WITH THE KIDS?”
Congratulations buddy, that’s a trap. A very tiny one, but a trap.
On the other hand, traps can change your life.
You want to be promoted, so you decide to work very hard. You try to do your best, and you feel that everyone in the office appreciate you. But in the end of the year, you’re not promoted, although you were sure that it’s going to happen. When you talk to your manager, he comes up with a bunch of explanations, but in the bottom line, it doesn’t happen.
That’s a one big trap you fell into, huh?
Some might say that these cases are not traps. That you’ve done nothing wrong, and the problem is not in you but in the other person in the story (or some other guy, or the organization, etc.).
IMHO, blaming other people in things that happen to you is not a productive way of thinking, because you can’t change other people.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I think that the other people in the examples above are 100% OK. Because they don’t!
BUT, my approach says that when the consequences of my actions didn’t match my expectations, it’s my responsibility.
Only if I’ll take responsibility for my actions, I’ll be able to think how I can change their consequences.
So what can you do about it? As I mentioned earlier, it all starts from our Thought Process.
My tip for doing my best to avoid traps is always keep asking myself the following questions:
- What are the possible negative consequences of my actions?
- Is there any chance that the results won’t be as I expect? Why?
- Is there anything I should do to make sure that the consequences would be as I want?
It may sound like every time you think about what you’re going to do, you automatically taking these considerations into account.
But you don’t.
We are all optimists by nature. Asking these questions explicitly will force you to doubt your instinct, and focus on the negative side.
By doing so, you expand the responsibility you take on your actions, and even more important:
You take control.
The next time you fall into a trap, don’t be too hard on yourself.
It happens to the best of us.
Take responsibility on the consequences of your actions.
And keep asking yourself the questions.